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Life Is Beautiful

Divine guidance

Does every flower flourish? No. A substantial number of them will also die during any of the steps. For other cycles it may even be the majority even in some cases.

Spring showers can destroy and drown the flower, winds will break it off. But it is perhaps the goal of the metaphor as well. Because what we might perceive as adversity at a given time is the very thing that will in fact make us stronger.

"Sometimes when you're in a dark place you think you have been buried when you have actually been planted."

Life cycles in such a way that there is a logical progression from one stage to the next. The picture above symbolizes that. It is a visual representation to the teachings of Divine Guidance that can give you the courage to overcome adversity.

"There was no danger for the seed, the seed could have survived millennia, but for the sprout many are the dangers. But the sprouts starts towards the unknown, towards the sun, towards the source of light, not knowing where, not knowing why. Great is the cross to be carried, but a dream possesses the seed and the seed moves.

The same is the path for Man. It is arduous. Much courage will be needed."

It is from the Osho Zen Tarot which has been a key aspect in my study and I feel that I know something about the subject. The book gives wonderful depth to the method.

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Why Do You Love To Cook?

The joy of a home cooked meal. There is something about it. I can’t tell you exactly what it is, why it means so much to me, or what it means to you. All I can clearly say is that it is not something that I really appreciated until it was gone. My mother can cook. And while we didn’t live on a far, suburban Chicago still knows how to bake an apple pie. For me, cooking is freedom, meditation, and a treat. It’s good for clearing my mind after a long day. I don’t get to cook at home nearly as much as I would like, but when I do I feel right at home. I also find great satisfaction in efficient prep, kitchen chemistry and resetting the space ready for next time. It is easy if you are motivated. But as my friends say: “why would I want to spend time cooking.” If you want to enjoy cooking, and I mean really enjoy it, you need to start out with something that is rewarding to you. Something that you like to eat when you are out because it is too much effort to make it yourself. Learn to master your favorite foods first. This will give you more knowledge than you will first realize. Whether that something readily available like pizza it doesn’t matter. You can always make a better pizza than you can buy. You simply need to practice. And who doesn’t like eating their practice? As you become more experienced and you optimize/organize you kitchen/tools/food storage abilities, it will become less of a chore and become easier and easier. Knowledge of food safety is also important. I am amazed when one of my friends will tell me they aren’t feeling well. That is what happens when you leave your takeout out for days before finishing it off. I am thoroughly amazed that none of them have come down with a nasty case of food poisoning. Use good ingredients. Even when you are getting started. It will be so much more rewarding. When you know how to cook, you can make food that’s better tasting, healthier, and more affordable than what you can get at a typical restaurant (even when you splurge on the really expensive ingredients). What’s not to love? Everyone needs to eat, but compliments are the best.
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You Are Not Alone

Many of our beliefs, voices and ideas are not our own. It is up to us to investigate what we believe, why we believe it, and to discard the things that don’t serve our growth and happiness. I like to think of all the noise and negativity and voices in the world akin to the dirt that must feel absolutely oppressive to a newly planted seed. It can be uncomfortable for young minds to push against the psychic pressure of the world, but we couldn’t exist and grow without this pressure! This world of right and wrong, black and white, 1’s and 0’s – this is the world of duality, and the tension of duality allows us to Be; it allows us to Live! We are a product of this world, yet we are meant to transcend it. Those voices that shaped us are not who we are. Our busy lives and schedules are not who we are. There’s a proverb that says “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day – unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.” I know it’s unrealistic that you might have the hour every day, but if ten minutes isn’t giving you much progress, try to start your day with 20-30 mins a few times a week. It’s also easier to mediate for longer in the mornings because the “too tired”, excuses that we might use are easier to avoid. Meditating before sleep is not recommended, unless you are doing some sort of guided meditation to get you into a relaxed state and ready for sleep. Most meditation is to practice being mindful or alert, and sleeping right after doesn’t give you the most relaxing sleep. WHile meditating before the night is not good. I’ve heard that it is normal when you’re first starting out to get drowsy, but that this goes away with practice. It is even the first stage in learning to meditate according to Sufi tradition.
Muraqaba is the Sufi word for meditation which means “to watch over”, “to take care of”, or “to keep an eye”. It implies that with meditation, a person watches over or takes care of his spiritual heart (or soul), and acquires knowledge about it, its surroundings, and its creator.
If you’re practicing mindfulness, then the morning is probably the best time to do it. You can also do what’s called in-breath meditation, which helps connect you to your higher bodies.
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My View On Meditation

You don’t need anything but your present moment, after all thats all there is. A “need” is an aggression towards yourself and your present moment. A need to improve is an aggression toward yourself hindering your ability to improve. A need to make more use of your time is a thief that robs you of the here and now. It is easy to grasp, but to master it, you must first master yourself. When I got started I realized that it as hard to handle a prolonged session. For example when I started it was impossible to gain relaxation of the facial muscles, especially eyes muscles. Over time it helped me quite a bit just noticing how the eye movements would change and decrease after a while, and when they finally stop it’s a very good feeling. If I had had one piece of advice given to me back when I first started I think that it would have been to start small. When people talk with me about it, I suggest very short snippets of time in every kind of situation. Like that you do not need to sped long stretches of time meditating and becoming frustrated when it feels like you are not making progress. Even 20 seconds or even 5 secs at a time, but the key here is doing it many times. This isn’t a real substitute for longer meditation sessions but it helps quite a bit to get a hang on starting, and above all it helps a lot to develop “presence” of mind. It’s definitely helpful especially if you work in front of a screen all day long. The reason is because that can produce a nasty state of mind, one which almost erases the effects of meditation. I use it during the day while I am at work in short bursts to refocus. When I am getting drained I will do it. Sometimes without even realizing it. Basically I don’t have any excuse how to do it, I need to practice not to do it. At least all of the time. Especially during my commute. Some preach long sessions only, they see them as the only way to go but then again, start small. Its better being consistent than pushing for long seshions and ending up being unmotivated to sit for 30 min each time. My bottomline view is that it is important to do shorter sessions. Even if you don’t get the full benefit. Sit 5 minutes, even less if that is too much. Start from there and as you progress you might wanna do longer periods.
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Geo What?

It’s called Geocaching. And as you might have guessed it is a website, you can find it under My friends and I play it sometimes. The idea is sort of like treasure hunting. For me the added bonus is that I get to spend time with my friends doing something fun. On top of that I have gotten to see a lot of places that I otherwise wouldn’t have seen. The gist is that people create and hide varying size “caches” and then upload the GPS coordinates to a website. Others than download the coordinates onto a handheld GPS like you phone you don’t need much. Just some time to go out and find it. Sometimes there’s just a log you sign, other times people will leave stuff to take. You can also log your finds on the same website. To date my favorite find was a Backstreet Boys album and a picture of MacGuyver.
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When in Chicago Do As the Chicagoans Do

Urbs in Horto

I moved away from our lovely city of gardens when I went to college. It was a big adjustment at first and I missed my city deeply, but it was one of growth as well. Because of that I feel like I lived up to our/your city’s motto fairly well. But it is always a little bit bittersweet when I visit and I have to return “home.” Which is really home? I often encourage people to visit. For one, it is cheaper that some of the other big cities, and it has a lot to offer. A trip to Starved Rock state park is about an hour and a half outside of the city, but feels very remote. Do you get that when you travel to NYC? If you enjoy hiking, Midwest hiking (there is a distinction), it is a nice experience. You will be treated to some lovely canyons and waterfalls there. And check out Matthiessen State Park as well. It is smaller, it amounts to about a a mile long canyon, but it is a fun experience when walk through it. One thing that I have begun to notice when I got back is that you will encounter many European tourists. They enjoy traveling the Old Route 66 from Chicago to Springfield, Illinois, making it sort of a day trip. Some of the bigger towns along the way make a special effort to welcome them. There are several organizations that provide information. But that is far from everything. If you like history, you can go to the Cahokia Mounds in Colinsville and on the return trip stop in Springfield, IL to see some sites where President Lincoln lived. Another fun trip is going to Galena, Il which has lots of history and great architecture. But be warned, the downtown has turned into pretty much of a tourist trap with all the “ye olde” stores there.

Outside of Chicago?

Something in Wisconsin might interest you. In fact it is where Chicagoans go to escape the concrete jungle. It’s a two day trip but it is where you go to see the great outdoors. For example, if you are looking for a true hike, you will want to explore Devil’s Lake State Park. There are some pleasant trails there. and some awesome rock formations that are usually occupied by true climbers. Definitely worth a trip, and you can hike from 5 miles to 20 miles before heading back to the city in the same day. It’s about a 3 hour drive, and you could stop in Madison for the night (it’s the capital city of Wisconsin). The area has plenty to offer.
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I Learned Woodworking

My dad was in construction his whole life. He still is. But when I state “whole” I really mean it. His father had construction business building house on-site. And from an early age my dad was expected to help. It wasn’t in his blood but he took over the family business when my grandfather retired. I have respected him because of the pride and effort he puts into making each job a success. But I never had any aspirations to take over the “family business”. He never had any expectations either. That doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy being a little bit like a country girl and working with wood. It helps me be creative and build something with my own hands. You would be surprised how rewarding it is for me. I don’t need to live in a cabin in the woods like Ana White to enjoy myself. Though it might make clean up easier. She has some nice easy projects with tool and resource list if you want to get a good idea of what it is like. Heed all safety warning, almost every tool you use to make furniture can hurt you – some gravely – so along the way learn how to work in a safe manner as well. Still, what you need and read very much depends on the kind of furniture you are drawn to create. For basic skills often your local adult education programs are a good place to start. They will have the basic power tools so you can get some hands on training. I owned a woodworking business for many years and had several younger workers come in green and learn what they did and did not wan to do. For instance you may prefer to only work with hand tools once the major dimensioning of the material is done. Others might prefer the power tool approach. Some may like a modern look and others want to make rustic furniture. If you want to make classic, heirloom quality furniture be prepared to kiss your time goodbye and buy yourself a copy of “Tage Freid teaches woodworking”. It will teach you how to cut all the classic joints, thickness a board by hand, make sure your stock is straight, do glue-ups, etc. If you want to make cheaper stuff fast, look into “Popular Woodworking” back issues at your local library and buy yourself a doweling jig or a pocket hole jig. Then grab some plywood and edge banding and get cracking. I general Tage Freid is a good start when you are learning to work with wood. My dad had a collection of his books that fascinated me as a child.
Tage Frid (30 May 1915 – 6 May 2004) was a Danish-born woodworker, educator and author who influenced the development of the studio furniture movement in the United States. His design work was often in the Danish-modern style, best known for his three legged stool and his publications.
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The Price of Knowledge

Knowledge is free, all one needs to do is make the effort to read it. I read and write a lot, which brings me a lot of enjoyment – when I read, I both enjoy the book, and analyze it for “tips” on how to improve the way I write. It can really eat up your time. <- Pun I was eating dinner with some friends the other day, and we kind of agreed that everyone else in our lives just didn’t get why we were spending so much time on our hobbies. They will not stop asking us to do things with them because they knew we’d be busy with things we enjoy. Even when we spend time with each other on regular basis. So is life. Learn, love, live!
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I Guess You Plan Big

My dad is a big MLB fan. He can tell you statistics until you go insane, but that is beside the point, not until he runs out. He never runs out. The other day he shared Shohei Otani’s career plan with me. It is more like a life’s worth of aspiration. He found it on facebook or one of his usual hangouts. It was a snapshot of a TV screen with some notes. They read:
  • Age 18: Join a MLB team
  • Age 19: Master English and reach AAA
  • Age 20: Called up to the majors, make 1.5 billion JPY (~13 million USD)
  • Age 21: Starting rotation, 16 wins
  • Age 22: Win the Cy Young award
  • Age 23: Member of Japan WBC team
  • Age 24: Throw a no-hitter and 25 wins
  • Age 25: Throw fastest pitch in the world 175 kph (~108mph)
  • Age 26: Win the World Series and get married
  • Age 27: Member of Japan WBC team & MVP
  • Age 28: 1st son is born
  • Age 29: Throw 2nd no-hitter
  • Age 30: Get most wins by a Japanese pitcher (in 1 MLB season?)
  • Age 31: 1st daughter is born
  • Age 32: Win 2nd World Series
  • Age 33: 2nd son is born
  • Age 34: Win 3rd World Series
  • Age 35: Member of Japan WBC team
  • Age 36: Break the strike out record?
  • Age 37: 1st son starts baseball
  • Age 38: Stats drop, start to think about retirement
  • Age 39: Decide to retire at end of next season
  • Age 40: Throw no-hitter in my very last game
  • Age 41: Return to Japan
  • Age 42: Introduce the American system to Japan?
I guess when you dream big you might as well dream really BIG. But he even had it planned when he was going to be having his sons. Seriously, I guess you could say 2nd child, but when you even plan the gender there is way too much though and effort going into this whole setting goals business. My dad will just have to take things as they come. But my life goal is to be happy, I am pretty flexible how that actually materializes.
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My boyfriend likes to collect comics. Sure it is seen as childish by some, who cares, it is his hobby. And it meant a lot to him to share that with me. But like a little kid he is collecting the newest issues when they come out. He calls them floppies. When he finds some that he likes he will end up getting them as trade paper back. I prefer hardcovers. When I learned that they also came out in hardback collections I stopped collecting the TPBs. For one thing hardbacks look better on the shelf. They are also easier to read, and they’re more durable and long-lasting. The down side? The wait is bad enough if you collect TPBs, but it’s even worse with hardcovers. Especially with Marvel. They often take way longer than they have to. Take the current Deadpool run, for example. The TPB of volume 4 (issues #20-25) was published June 2014. They could have printed the volume 2 oversized hardcover (with issues #13-25) at the exact same time. They delay the hardcover printing so that you’ll double dip. It’s a year later, and the volume 2 OHC is only just now getting published in a few weeks. Another point is that I find them more collectible. The more of something you have available, the less “in demand” it will become. While this may not b entirely true. Fewer copies of every isse are being printed. This has been going on since the late 90s in fact – there are also fewer copies of books printed – than just about any time since comic books became a thing. More comics are being sold however. In general once an item is seen/deemed a collectors item by the general public and they are easily obtainable the collect-ability of the item for profit goes down. There are exceptions to the rule of course but mass production and the general public saturation most will not hold any value. For the floppies that I do collect I bag, board, and put them in binder sheets. I place them in a 3 ring binder and stand them vertically.